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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In the vein of Stephen Pinker's The Language Instinct, scientist Kirshenbaum examines one of humanity's fondest pastimes. Divided into three parts, the book covers the evolutionary and cultural history of the kiss, the chemistry of kissing, and the future of kissing. In part one, "The Hunt for Kissing's Origins," Kirshenbaum examines the role kissing played in the Middle Ages--a businesslike kiss was employed as a legal way to seal contracts and business agreements. Many men did not know how to read and write, so their signature X was kissed to make it legal. Part two, "Kissing in the Brain," will appeal to anyone who has ever been curious about the chemical properties of butterflies in the stomach. Kirshenbaum writes just as gracefully about prostitutes in pop culture as she does the myriad of complicated biological and chemical processes that science uses to explain osculation. Part three, "Great Expectations," covers Kirshenbaum's personal attempt to further investigate the kiss and leaves a long list of fascinating questions that demand further research. (Jan.)
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From Booklist

What’s the big deal? You pucker up, and there you are—right? Turns out there’s a lot more to kissing than you might think. For instance, you never forget your first kiss isn’t just a sappy sentiment; it’s apparently quite literally true, and the fact that we remember more details about that first kiss than about our first sexual experience speaks volumes about the nature of memory. Men and women kiss differently; that’s also true, but you might be surprised to learn why. Why is kissing important to some human societies, and unimportant—just plain foreign—to others? University of Texas research scientist and Discover magazine blogger Kirshenbaum draws on psychology, biology, history, and other disciplines in this highly engaging, highly informative book. --David Pitt
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; 1 edition (January 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446559903
  • ASIN: B005ZO4Y8K
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #392,839 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sheril Kirshenbaum is Director of The University of Texas at Austin Energy Poll at The McCombs School of Business Energy Management and Innovation Center. She works to enhance public understanding of energy issues and improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public.

Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. In addition, she hosts the blog, Culture of Science, focusing on the interdisciplinary nature of understanding our world with great emphasis on the conservation of biodiversity.

Sheril's writing has appeared in publications such as Newsweek, The Washington Post, Bloomberg View, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her work has also been published in journals such as Science, Nature, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. She is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010.

Sheril has been selected as a Marshall Memorial Fellow for 2012; an international program to expose future U.S. leaders to a changing and expanding Europe. The previous year she was chosen as a Next Generation Project Texas Fellow through the Robert Strauss Center for International Security and Law. Sheril also served as a legislative Knauss Science Fellow in 2006 on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy.

Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday, and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has appeared in documentaries and been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown. She is on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and spoke at TEDGlobal2011.

In 2007, Sheril helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, she was a research associate with the Webber Energy Group at The University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy. She was also a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment with The Pimm Group and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects.

A graduate of Tufts University, she holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine and also has experience working on pop radio. Before launching her blog independently, she hosted Convergence at Wired.com and The Intersection at Discover Blogs with Chris Mooney. She has also contributed to Scientific American, Climate Progress, DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, PBS's Wired Science, and Seed. Sheril was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. She lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry.

Customer Reviews

Who's researched the field extensively!
joyful
A very interesting short book with some new information and some basic.
David N. Campbell
I am enjoying the book itself, and I think you will too!
Saurabh Ghosh

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Texas_reader on January 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I pre-ordered this book and was very excited when the release date was moved up. I had expected to enjoy it (I've read other works - long and short- by Kirshenbaum and liked them), but did not expect her newest release to be so engaging (I dont personally study this type of stuff, so wasn't sure if it would keep my attention). I'm happy to say that it was GREAT! Overall - I definitely give it 5 stars. The book kept my attention and interest from cover to cover. I learned a lot - and enjoyed the process.

When I sat down to read it after Christmas, I had thought to thumb through 20 or 30 pages, but found myself anxiously turning beyond 50.... 100.... 200... until I was done. Couldn't wait to see what the next page would hold. As I read, I laughed (quoting "The Princess Bride" at the onset is a good way to do that), learned (did you know that humans generally remember their first trip to 1st base better than their first trip to home?), and cringed (eating apples from armpits - trust me. Ick!). The book even touched on "Twilight"-inspired "kissing" behaviors from a scientist's point of view (interesting).

The book was a fun cruise through the history and present status of kissing in different cultures, groups and species - in the context of scientific studies on what kissing does to us, and why me continue to do it.

Great for those of us who like to learn about new topics, from a scientist/historian's point-of-view - but also want a work that is engaging, and not dry. Definite 5 stars!
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By J. Davis on February 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover
It gives no pleasure to give this book a bad review; the last book she (co)wrote was very good and I enjoy reading her blog. Nonetheless, I can't recommend buying this book. It was very thin in substance and length. The science of kissing, as the author (I believe it's p.197) herself admits, is still in its infancy. Maybe in 5 years or so there will be more to write about the subject of kissing.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Mary Bookhounds VINE VOICE on January 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Everything you ever wanted to know about kissing but were afraid to ask. It has sections on the history, psychology, physiology and meanings behind that act. This is a fascinating books filled with facts that are formed into a comprehensive and enjoyable book. My favorite section is on the physiology which also covers germs and how your body has learned to react to a kiss. Fans of Mary Roach are truly going to enjoy this one.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Eric Somogyi on February 4, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ladies love when you tell them you read a book With this title. It is even better when you have it on the book shelf and your lady sees it and begins talking about kissing.

I suggest carrying this book loosely in public areas. Starbucks is a great example! Order a coffee and have one of the hot baristas hand it to you while you are reading the book. Make light conversation, send a wink as the conversation ends, and as you leave thank her for the coffee and give her your receipt with your number on it. You will get a text later from her or another one of the hot baristas and boom Goes the dynamite.

if you decide to read the book you will find it enjoyable and learn theories why we kiss, how it started and different ways kisses are done all over the world. The subtle information you receive from kissing someone is actually interesting and you will never kiss someone the same again.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Claudia Dreifus on January 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Sheril Kirshenbaum, who, with Chris Mooney, brings science to the masses with "The Intersection," blog, has decided to tell us everything about a lovely subject, kissing.

She's a bright and sparkling writer and the book is almost as much fun as the subject. Forget about the chocolates. This is the gift to give to your beloved this Valentine's Day.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By joyful VINE VOICE on February 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Don't you wish they taught this class in high school? The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us by Sheril Kirshenbaum is the kind of science book I love to read: fascinating, fun, informative, and highly readable for the layperson. Kirshenbaum covers almost everything about this titillating subject. It's not too technical for the nonscientific crowd, but with enough depth across a broad spectrum so by the end I felt very educated about kissing. And people, real-world, personal research in this subject (which I am happy to participate in) can always be enhanced with some investigatory reading.

"A romantic kiss does nothing less than set off an avalanche of biological activity. During a passionate kiss, our blood vessels dilate; more oxygen is routed to the brain; our breathing quickens and becomes erratic; our cheeks flush; our pulse quickens; our pupils dilate; dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, oxytocin, and adrenaline levels spike, leaving our bodies awash in a chemical bath. In short, our biology seem to be hardwired to make kissing extremely pleasurable and, to some degree, addictive."

The Science of Kissing covers historical and cultural origins of kissing (do you know that there is a place in the Cook Islands where the men have an average of 1,000 orgasms a year yet do not engage in any form of romantic kissing?); the physiological and neurological, not to mention the emotional and psychological, responses when we kiss; kissing experiments; why we tilt our heads to the right when we kiss (nothing to do with being left or right-handed); a chapter on "cooties"; and much, much more.

But the education doesn't stop there; at the end, Kirshenbaum gives you 10 tips for better kissing. This isn't your average Cosmo article; these are tips from a scientist! Who's researched the field extensively! If for nothing else, you gotta read The Science of Kissing for this invaluable part.
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